The Richmond Group, the coalition of 10 leading health and social care charities, has named five themes that it wants the government to make priorities for the NHS.

A report published by the group today, From Vision to Action, says the themes should be included in the Department of Health’s first “mandate” to the NHS Commissioning Board, in order to “put patients at the heart of the NHS”.

The themes - first identified in the group’s first report in 2010 - are:

  • co-ordinated care
  • patients engaged in decisions about their care
  • supported self-management
  • prevention, early diagnosis and intervention
  • emotional, psychological and practical support

The group said in a statement that it, “believes too much focus has been placed on changing structures within the NHS, rather than focussing on the needs and outcomes of the people it will serve”.

Its report also identifies actions which should be taken to address the themes. They include for doctors to be trained in supporting patient involvement in their own care.

Macmillan Cancer Support chief executive Ciaran Devane, who co-led the work, said: “Every day we hear from patients with cancer and other conditions who are frustrated that key decisions about their care are made without their input. It’s absolutely vital patients’ views inform commissioning as well as treatment options.

“This report sets out the most urgent service improvements needed to address the issues patients care most about. If implemented effectively they will not only ensure patients are at the heart of the system, but also they will help build a sustainable and more cost-effective model for the NHS.”

Age UK charity director general Michelle Mitchell said: “This report puts into focus how the reformed NHS can start to make our health service fit for the future and fit to serve the people who use it most.

“The government has recognised the principle of ‘no decision about me without me’ but we want to make sure as the NHS goes through a period of change that this tenet is central to everything that the service does and that this commitment is delivered.”

As well as the themes the report identifies five “vital priority areas”. They are:

  • The mandate: The mandate that the health secretary will be giving to NHS Commissioning Board must reflect the five key themes outlined in the report.
  • Measurement, monitoring and public accountability: As the NHS Commissioning Board starts to take responsibility, the government must hold it to account by measuring, monitoring and publishing performance so that consistent, comparable information is available to patients and carers.
  • Integrated care: A vital component to the success of a sustainable NHS is the integration of care across boundaries, particularly for those patients with multiple long-term conditions. 
  • Active commissioning and service redesign: Commissioners need to actively redesign and reconfigure services in order to tackle the postcode lottery that currently exists in the provision of certain services.
  • 24/7 care: Greater access to 24 hour, seven day community based care is required to stop people falling into crisis and a subsequent need for hospital-based care. Hospitals should provide a seven day service.

The 10 charities represented by the Richmond Group are: Age UK, Asthma UK, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation, Diabetes UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Neurological Alliance, Rethink, and the Stroke Association.

HSJ this week reported the commissioning boards’ fears the government will try to include lots of requirements and targets in the mandate, some specific to disease areas. The Richmond Group hopes elements of its suggested priorities - which cut across disease areas - may be included in the final compromise.